|WEDNESDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry has responded to comments made by the UK government's Minister For Digital And Culture during a debate on the visa issues now facing British musicians as they tour Europe post-Brexit. In the main, they weren't impressed with Caroline Dinenage's remarks... [READ MORE]|
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Music industry responds to government's latest statement on post-Brexit touring
The debate on Monday was responding to a petition set up on the Parliament website after it became clear at the end of last year that the post-Brexit UK/EU trade deal did not, as expected and promised, include visa-free touring for musicians and crews.
That means that, once COVID restrictions are lifted, British musicians touring Europe will be subject to different entry rules in each EU country. Some countries will require musicians to get travel permits and/or equipment carnets, all of which could make some tours unviable.
As anger increased over the fact visa-free touring was not part of the trade deal, UK ministers were quick to blame the EU which, they said, had knocked back their perfectly reasonable proposals regarding British performers performing in a post-Brexit Europe. The EU quickly countered that it was, in fact, the UK that rejected its proposals.
It turns out that both sides were technically correct. In that both sides made different proposals. And both sides then rejected the other side's plan.
At the Parliamentary debate on the petition, various MPs ran through all the issues that music industry reps have raised ever since the impact of Brexit on touring became apparent.
It was then left to Dinenage to defend the government. She waffled on a bit about how great culture is, and how annoying it is that Britain's great cultural industries now face all these new challenges, and how everyone is super aware about the financial implications of all this.
She also insisted that she wasn't interested in playing the blame game. Though that insistence came right in the middle of her playing the blame game.
"The UK pushed for ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work across Europe after the end of freedom of movement", she told MPs. "Of course we did, because they are so vital to our economy. Our proposals were very straightforward".
"They involved capturing the work done by musicians, by artists, by entertainers, and their accompanying staff, through the list of permitted activities for short-term business visitors ... This would have meant performers and artists could travel and work in the UK and EU more easily and would mean there were no requirements for work permits either".
These arrangements weren't just made up civil servants, she insisted. They were informed by the very best experts from across the music industry. The resulting proposals were nice and straightforward too. And yet, "quite simply", Dinenage declared, "the EU rejected this proposal".
"There was no specific counter-offer from the EU concerning touring for musicians or for the creative sectors", she then claimed. Yes, there were other more generic proposals about visa-free business travel, but, she insisted, those wouldn't have achieved what the music industry wanted anyway.
And, of course, they would have conflicted big time with the "fuck all foreigners" manifesto with which her best bud 'Boris' Johnson rose to power.
"What there was, in other areas of negotiation, was that the EU tabled text regarding paid activities that can be conducted without a visa", she went on. "And this suggested that that might include ad-hoc performances, so these proposals would not have addressed the sector's concerns".
"Critically, these proposals put forward by the EU were non-binding; they did not include any of the technical or touring staff who we know are absolutely vital. They did not address the massive issue of work permits which are different in every member state of the EU".
"On top of all this", she added, "while not offering any special carve-out for performers, the EU's proposals were also part of this package of visa-free travel for not only current members of the EU but any future EU member, and that was across a whole wide range of other sectors. It's just simply not consistent with the manifesto commitment to take back control of our borders and it wasn't consistent with the idea of Brexit that the majority of people in this country voted for".
That "majority of people", by the way, in case you need reminding, is the 27% of the population who voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum and the 21% of the population who voted for 'Boris' Johnson's Conservative Party in the 2019 general election. Yay majorities!
"This isn't a blame game", Dinenage concluded. "The outcome is regrettable - it's not the deal the government wanted. But our door remains 100% open [for new negotiations] if the EU should change its mind".
Among those responding to Dineage's statement were Tim Burgess, who has been among an increasing number of musicians being vocal about the post-Brexit visa issues on social media.
He told NME: "It just seems that everybody involved was hugely supportive of the plight of musicians ... apart from the one person who could actually [do] something about it. They have made it about immigration when it really isn't. It's about culture, but we seem to have a government that doesn't care too much about anything connected with the arts".
In its statement, the Musicians' Union said: "With more details now emerging, it now seems that the key disagreement between the UK and the EU was over the scope of the proposal – the UK government suggested something that would have been specific to performers and touring crew. The EU wanted a broader visa-free travel agreement for a number of sectors, which was unacceptable to the UK government and the Home Office in particular"
Noting its ongoing campaign with the Incorporated Society Of Musicians on this issue, it went on: "The MU thinks that it would now be best to reopen discussions with a new proposal that could solve the problem, in order to move away from the current political blame game".
"To that end", it said, "we are working with the ISM and other music industry organisations to come up with potential solutions. More information on these will be available over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we continue our discussions with individual EU countries to try and ensure that rules and regulations for touring musicians are as non-onerous as possible".
Meanwhile, also responding to Dinenage's remarks, David Martin, CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition, told reporters: "Are we really at the point of claiming that a functioning and thriving music industry in the UK is at odds with leaving the EU? If so, that is a staggering admission".
"Artists, songwriters, producers, managers, musicians, crew, festivals, venues, promoters, labels in the UK, plus countless others employed and engaged across our industry are simply not going to lie down on this issue", he went on. "Government would be sensible to recognise that this matter will not go away and that we will not be quiet".
"Beyond the enormous financial contribution of our industry - twelve times more added to the UK economy in GVA than fishing, in 2019 - our status, global recognition and wellbeing are reliant on the UK's music industry, and the social value that it is responsible for is immeasurable. It is ingrained in our DNA".
"Whilst the FAC continues to engage with government to find short term solutions to the myriad problems caused by the UK's current regulatory position, it is not enough to simply say 'the door is open'", he concluded. "The UK government must be proactive in engaging European counterparts, both at EU and at individual member state level. The current levels of frustration seen across the industry, and in the public, will only grow if government remain passive and do not actively pursue credible and realistic solutions".
R Kelly's New York abuse trial delayed again due to COVID
The already delayed trial was set to begin on 7 Apr, and now has its start scheduled for 9 Aug. However, Judge Ann Donnelly said that this may slip again, depending on the rollout of vaccines.
If it goes ahead in August, the new date brings it closer to Kelly's other trial in Chicago, which has also been pushed back due to the pandemic and is now set to take place in September. However, Kelly's lawyer Steve Greenberg said in court yesterday that he was not confident that the Chicago hearing would start in September anyway, due to the "disappointing" rollout of vaccines in the city.
Kelly has been held in custody on numerous charges relating to allegations of sexual abuse in multiple states since July 2019. He has been kept in jail due to evidence that he tampered with witnesses ahead of his previous child abuse trial in 2008.
Earlier this month, a friend of Kelly's, Richard Arline Jr, pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to pay off a witness involved in the current round of accusations against the musician. He said that he did so with the approval of Kelly. Two other men are accused of attempting to intimidate witnesses and their families.
YouTube grabs Youtubeconverter.io domain off stream-ripping site via WIPO complaint
Stream-ripping, of course, has been the music industry's top piracy gripe for a while now. Often its music companies targeting websites that allow people to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams, via cease and desist notices, full-on lawsuits, or web-block injunctions. However, YouTube, whose platform is commonly ripped by the rippers, also insists that it does its bit to tackle this kind of piracy.
In its recent submission to the UK Parliament's inquiry into the economics of streaming, YouTube wrote: "We have continuously invested in various approaches to combat stream-ripping, including through improvements to technical infrastructure; working together with third parties, with whom we have run various technical experiments and explorations, and whose lawsuits against rippers we have supported with declarations; and other legal means such as sending cease-and-desist letters and filing domain name disputes".
This particular domain name dispute was specifically pursued on the basis that the operator of Youtubeconverter.io was exploiting the YouTube trademark for a service that encouraged and enabled people to violate YouTube's terms of service by ripping its streams.
YouTube took the matter to WIPO's domain dispute set-up which, in its own words, exists to provide "time and cost-efficient mechanisms to resolve internet domain name disputes, without the need for court litigation".
The owner of Youtubeconverter.io - Vietnamese-based Ken Nguyenm - did not respond to YouTube's complaint. In the absence of any defence, Stephanie Hartung of WIPO's domain disputes panel wrote in a ruling last week that the stream-ripping site's domain was confusing, it did not use that name in a bona fide way, and therefore Nguyen had both registered and used Youtubeconverter.io in "bad faith".
Hartung wrote: "The panel concludes that the disputed domain name is confusingly similar to the YouTube trademark in which complainant has rights. The panel is further convinced on the basis of complainant's undisputed contentions that respondent has not made use of the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services".
"Nor has respondent been commonly known by the disputed domain name", the ruling added. "Nor can it be found that respondent has made a legitimate noncommercial or fair use thereof without intent for commercial gain. The panel finally holds that the disputed domain name was registered and is being used by respondent in bad faith".
With all that in mind, "the panel orders that the disputed domain name Youtubeconverter.io be transferred to complainant".
To what extent this process can be used to target other stream-ripping sites depends on what domain names they use, of course. Others have also used the YouTube brand, though many have much more generic names.
Also, as it always the case, it's debatable how effective action of this kind really is, even when successful. Torrentfreak points out that YouTubeconverter is now branding and hosting itself as and at ytconv.cc.
CJ signs to Warner Chappell
"CJ is a young talent who burst onto the New York rap scene and is already gaining worldwide attention", says Warner Chappell President of US A&R Ryan Press. "From the minute I first heard his music, I was hooked. We're looking forward to the journey ahead and working closely with him, his manager James Cruz, along with ... our Warner Records fam".
CJ adds: "The moment I've been waiting for as a songwriter and an artist is finally here. Ryan Press and the Warner Chappell team are all about building a writer's career and that's exactly what I'm looking to do. I'm ready to take this momentum and see what we can accomplish together".
Why put all your eggs in one basket and sign both deals with Warner though? Well, here's CJ's manager - the previously mentioned James Cruz - to explain: "We chose Warner Chappell and Warner Records because we wanted to have our label and publishing partners under the same roof as well as work with a team that felt more like family. I've been on this ride with CJ since the beginning, and I know it's going to only get better from here with the full support of our friends at Warner".
Well, you know what they say: why work with one division of a multinational corporation when you can cuddle two? CJ is currently working on a new EP. His new single, 'Bop', is out now.
Universal gets in on livestreaming with Big Hit and YG
VenewLive was launched in September by KBYK Live - a joint venture company founded by Big Hit and Kiswe last year. Universal and YG are now investors in that company, Big Hit announced yesterday, and will aid the expansion of the service, in part by providing artists to stream performances on it.
Big Hit, of course, has BTS on its books, which alone is enough to make a decent go of the service worldwide. YG will boost the venture's K-pop credentials, with Blackpink in particular, while Universal can provide a range of international artists and, presumably, a little bit of expertise.
"We are delighted to join Big Hit, YG and Kiswe as partners in KBYK as we look to help further evolve the opportunities and live streaming experiences for UMG artists and their fans today, and into the future", says Universal CFO Boyd Muir.
"This past year has shown that the need for reliable and innovative livestreaming has never been greater", he continues. "VenewLive offers some of the most creative and memorable opportunities for today's artists to globalise their art and performances, tailored to enhance the community and fan experience".
Big Hit Global CEO Lenzo Yoon adds: "Big Hit's attempts to maximise fan experience are not limited to entertainment, but also implementing various technologies. KBYK is also part of this effort".
"Our dream and goal is to provide the most advanced technology currently available so that fans can experience the artist's content in the best way possible under any circumstances", he goes on. "We will continue to study how new technologies and attempts in various fields can have a positive impact on strengthening our fan experience and actively introduce them".
BTS have already used the platform for two online shows, scoring nearly a million viewers for the second. Universal artist Justin Bieber also broadcast a New Year's Eve show on the platform. So, some headline-grabbing stuff. That said, in total it has only hosted a handful of shows so far - the latest being K-pop boyband Enhyphen earlier this week.
Music community pays tribute to Mary Wilson
Wilson was only fifteen when she co-founded The Primettes, the Detroit-based quartet that subsequently morphed into The Supremes. They changed their name after signing to Motown Records in 1961, becoming a trio the following year, with Wilson performing alongside Florence Ballard and Diana Ross. It took a couple of years for the group to achieve commercial success, but once it came there were five consecutive US number ones across 1964 and 1965.
By that time Diana Ross had been positioned as the leader of the group, which started performing as Diana Ross & The Supremes in 1967. Though it was Wilson who remained in the line-up even after Ross's departure in 1970. Back as simply The Supremes, the group continued with its prolific output through to 1977.
Although much less prolific in release terms after the end of The Supremes, Wilson did put out a number of solo records and also guested on tracks for other artists. Her solo career was boosted in 1986 by the publication of her first autobiography, which told the often eventful story behind the pop phenomenon that had been The Supremes.
She was also involved in some interesting litigation from a music industry perspective. Legal battles over the use of her name led to new laws in some US states regarding who has the rights to use a band name if you have a group that has an ever-changing line-up over its history. She also fought to get access to Motown's financial records in a dispute over the early record contracts she had signed.
That said, despite those past disputes with Motown, the label's founder Berry Gordy was among those paying tribute to Wilson yesterday.
He told reporters: "I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of The Supremes. The Supremes opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others. I was always proud of Mary. She was quite a star in her own right and over the years continued to work hard to boost the legacy of The Supremes. Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva and will be deeply missed".
Today Motown sits within the Universal Music Group, and its CEO, Lucian Grainge, also paid tribute yesterday, also noting that in more recent years Wilson had been an important advocate for artist rights and copyright reform within the US.
"Mary Wilson reigned 'supreme' in so many ways", he said. "She had the most beautiful voice filled with passion and style. A great friend to Motown, Universal Music Group and artists everywhere, she was as much at home walking the halls of Congress to help pass landmark Music Modernization legislation as she was in front of an audience. Her charm, charisma and warmth brought people close to her and she lives on in her music and the memory of her indomitable spirit".
And as for the most famous of Wilson's fellow Supremes, Diana Ross posted her tribute on Twitter, stating: "My condolences to Mary's family. I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together. The Supremes will live on, in our hearts".
COVID-19 CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS
Travis have postponed their May 2021 tour dates to May 2022. But they have also released 'Waving At The Window', the opening track from their new album 'Ten Songs', as a single.
Australian live entertainment firm TEG has acquired a majority stake in also Australian promoter Handsome Tours. "Time and time again, Handsome Tours have showcased their ability to discover new talent and nurture it from the tiniest of clubs to sold out theatres and arenas", says TEG CEO Geoff Jones. "The team's passionate work ethic and artist-first philosophy is the perfect complement to TEG's integrated model, built on client-first technology solutions and customer-first ticketing services".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
The Recording Industry Association Of America has published a new report from economists Robert Stoner and Jéssica Dutra which - like UK Music's annual 'Music By Numbers' report - seeks to demonstrate the economic impact of the music industry. Only on the American economy, not the British one, obviously. "The music industry contributes $170 billion to US GDP annually and supports 2.5 million jobs nationwide in core music activities like recording, streaming, and live performance, as well as adjacent fields like travel, retail, and marketing", it says. You can download the report here.
Slowthai has released new single 'Cancelled', featuring Skepta. His new album, 'Tyron', is out on Friday.
Architects have released new single 'Meteor'. Their new album, 'For Those That Wish To Exist', is out on 26 Feb.
Anchorsong has released new single 'Tunis Dream'. "I was invited to play at a nightclub in Tunis last summer", he says. "It was a very hot day, and everyone was chilling on the beach by the venue. There was a certain scent in the air, and I sensed something nostalgic with it. I recalled that night when writing this track".
Dry Cleaning have released new single 'Strong Feelings'. "It's about secretly being in love with someone who doesn't know it, and Brexit's disruptive role in romantic relationships", says vocalist Florence Shaw. The band's debut album, 'New Long Leg', will be out on 2 Apr.
Mouse On Mars have released new single 'Youmachine'. Their new album, 'AAI (Anarchic Artificial Intelligence)', is out on 26 Feb through Thrill Jockey.
Ebhoni has released new single, 'X-Ting'. Her debut EP is due out later this year.
Drones have released new single 'Live And Let Live'. The song, says vocalist Lois McDougall, "is for anyone who has ever felt trapped in their own skin".
Elder Island have released new single 'Purely Educational'. Their new album, 'Swimming Static', is out on 28 May.
GIGS & TOURS
Where have you been livestreaming from? Your mum's living room? You need to up your game, because next month Kygo is going to be beaming to a screen near you from the top of a mountain. In the UK you'll be able to watch at 6pm on 5 Mar. Tickets go on sale here on 12 Feb.
The Hold Steady have announced that their annual two night residency at London's Electric Ballroom will go ahead as usual next month. Well, not entirely as usual. They'll be playing at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York, for one thing. And you'll have to watch it all on the internet. But other than that, exactly the same. It'll all take place on 5-6 Mar. Tickets here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Rebecca Black releases tenth anniversary all-star remix of Friday
"I'd had the idea to do this remix of 'Friday' for years leading up to now, but honestly it was also mildly insane for me to think anyone else would want to be a part of it", says Black. "As I started talking about it with other artists and producers, I couldn't believe how stoked people were about it. I am THRILLED to have some of my favourite artists - and people - as a part of this moment".
'Friday', of course, went viral in 2011, after being declared the worst song of all time. It was created by a now-defunct company called Ark Music Factory, which basically took money from rich parents in order for their children to record a song and make a music video.
The intention was never to make them famous, but - once it had been posted to YouTube - the poor quality of the work coupled with the infuriating catchiness of 'Friday' was enough to make it, for a brief time, the most talked about song in the world.
Black has continued to release music over the last decade, although has never matched the success of that first track - only coming even vaguely close with a sequel song called 'Saturday' in 2013. She has, nonetheless, maintained a profile as a YouTuber and media personality.